A legal guardian is a person who is appointed by the probate court to manage and handle the healthcare, welfare, and lifestyle decisions of a minor or incapacitated adult. A person may be declared incapacitated if they are found to be impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, physical or mental infirmities accompanying advanced age, chronic drug use or intoxication, or other evidence that the person lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions.
While a legal guardian for a minor is usually not necessary when there is a living parent or custodian, if no such person exists, the court can appoint any person whose appointment would be in the best interest of the minor. If the minor is at least 14 years of age, the court can appoint a person nominated by the minor, assuming the nominated person is not contrary to the minor’s best interest. The court can also appoint a person nominated in the will of the parent, or other written document signed by the parent and witnessed by at least two persons.
Generally speaking, a legal guardian is responsible for decisions regarding the care of the incapacitated person such as acquiring and consenting to proper medical care, choosing living accommodations, overseeing educational and vocational training, and ensuring the health and safety of the individual. However, the powers and responsibilities of the Guardian are set by statute and can be difficult to effectively manage. As the Judges of Probate and their staffs are prohibited from giving legal advice, it is always advisable to consult with an attorney to assist you with such matters. The attorneys of Pruitt & Tudisco, P.C., have extensive experience acting as guardians, as well as assisting the family members of incapacitated persons navigate the complex legal procedures necessary to be appointed as guardians themselves.